University President Addresses SLU Demonstrations
|Fred P. Pestello, Ph.D.|
These are unprecedented times for the St. Louis community, and Sunday and this morning, they arrived on our doorstep, as a protest was staged on our campus. We as a SLU community have responded peacefully and have kept the protests from escalating in any way. Please know that at all times, the safety of our students has been our top priority — and continues to be.
As many of you know by now, hundreds of protestors marched to our campus early this morning protesting police brutality and other social injustices, and held a rally and sit-in around the clock tower. The march started in the Shaw neighborhood and proceeded up Grand Avenue to the Frost Campus. The University had no prior knowledge that this action would take place.
Once on campus, the protestors were peaceful and did not cause any injuries or damage. In consultation with St. Louis Police and our Department of Public Safety, it was our decision to not escalate the situation with any confrontation, especially since the protest was non-violent. While the protestors were sometimes loud, they were respectful of the students they met. At the same time, we ensured that all of our residence halls were secure and that DPS was carefully monitoring the scene. As of 6 a.m., approximately 25 protestors remain on campus in tents just north of the clock tower. We remain steadfastly committed to ensuring the safety of all of our students and campus to the very best of our ability. To that end, our response has been non-confrontational and consistent with our mission.
While I know that having middle-of-the-night protests is unexpected and can be disturbing, I applaud the actions of everyone on campus — especially our students — for handling this situation with great grace and compassion. After consultation with Provost Dr. Ellen Harshman, we have agreed that classes will go on as scheduled today, but we will leave it to individual faculty members to make any adjustments to their class schedules for today.
Earlier last night, more than 1,800 people came to our arena to hear clergy and young activists speak about the difficult issues that have led to these protests. At that event as well, the attendees were peaceful.
There is certainly the possibility that protests — some near our campus — may continue. We expect these also to be peaceful, but we will handle any of them with the care of our students foremost in our actions. Let us all pray for better days ahead.
Fred P. Pestello